the wretched whisper and somehow, someday

[from february 7, 2010. how far the Father has brought me since then! His mercy is kind indeed.]

Alone.
You, Lindsay Leigh Ellyson, are all alone.
And it is all up to you to make your way in this world.
And that is the way it will always be. 

Somewhere, someday this is whispered into my ear. Somehow, someway it drifts from out there somewhere, and it makes its way through my entirety, and settles in for a good long stay. Somewhere, someday is probably so long ago that I may never know it exactly. I may never know the somehow, someway either.

That whisper is an assault on my very design. My self is so tiny when that whisper first comes, and my reaction is not at all of the knee-jerking sort. Maybe at first I dodge the blows. But I quickly learn, as most humans do, the awkward ways to move along with this force to avoid being knocked off my feet. A side-step here, a hip-sway there. I bend over backwards, I twirl around, moving in rhythm with the assault until we are in a full-blown dance, complete with locked hands and an embrace. I cannot stop myself. The whisper never stops its movement forward, and if I halt my steps and the jerking of my body, it will hit me like steady blows. On and on I dance, led away by the whisper, moving in accordance with its thrusts toward me. I cannot stop, it has taken me over. Each passing year, my moves become smoother, my hand more firmly set in the hand of my assaulter.

Not much time goes by before I have forgotten the original whisper. The poison has mixed with my cellular make-up and I now have my own particular strand of sickness.

I am independent.
I might as well be, for I am alone.

I am responsible.
It is entirely up to me to make everything safe and secure.

I am sufficient for my own needs.
I have to be, for I am alone.

I’m fine. I’m tough. I can handle it.
I have to be, for I am alone.

I’m different than everyone else. My life is just not the same, and it will never be. And I don’t want it to.
I am alone. It’s pointless to want it to be any other way, because it never will be. 

The unasked question throbbing is, “If I was never designed to be alone, how then do I survive this?” And thus my whole existence becomes the tragic dance of attempting survival in the face of aloneness.

For twenty-some years or something of the like. Until my no-longer tiny self is tuckered out. Until my smooth, well-practiced moves begin to slip as my strength wears thin.

I’m anxious. I panic. I’m frustrated. I’m so very overwhelmed. These are not the only emotions I ever experience, but sometimes they define my existence for weeks on end. I find myself looking around. Help me, please. I’m independent, but my chest feels like its going to cave in. I’m responsible, but I can’t keep it together. I’m tough, I’m fine, I can handle it, but I’m sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor weeping sorrowfully. My life is different, but I think I am going to die.

I rock independence.

And I die a little more with every passing season.

I strut my stuff, I motion to observers to admire my dance with this vengeful whisper. I’ve got this jazzy tune down pat and I look good swaying on the floor. I like this dance, its my dance. It’s who I am, it’s who I will always be.

Then why do I want to run away forever?

My roommates share feasts with me. My friends shower affection on me. My family shouts affirmation. My supporters lavish gifts. My mentors dump bucket loads of blessing. All the while, the my body pulses with “Alone. You’re alone. You will always be alone. Nothing will ever change.”

But it does change.

It changes because somewhere, someday I nodded my head yes when You asked me to love You. It changes because somehow, someway You are committed to keep me from falling and to sweep me up into Your arms in an unadulterated state. It changes because You are far more committed to me than I can ever dare to imagine. It changes because You heard my pitiful little cry for help.

You step onto the dance floor. I don’t know who I am dancing with, I don’t realize who I have embraced. It’s been so many years, and I was so very young when the dance began. I forget the poison’s name. I don’t even know it has tampered with my cellular make-up. But You point at the assault and tell me it’s name, loudly and so very clearly.

ALONE.

I’m so very glad You have come, and I’m so very glad that I finally know why I’ve been anxious all this time. I’m so very glad You have spoken, for at last my slow death has a visible cause. And now, every corner I turn I see how the whisper has forced me to move. Every week another survival technique gets unraveled.

Oh, I do this because I think I’m alone. Oh, I feel that way because I think I’m alone. Ohhhh, I burst into tears just now because I think I am alone. Oh. Ohh. It all makes sense now. Okay. 

But I’m reeling, actually. Because the only steps I’ve taken all these years are the ones that wretched whisper forced me to take. I know its song, I know its dance, even though its embrace is awkward now. My hands are clammy, and I’m pulling further away with each new level of realization.

Except I don’t know Your dance yet. I don’t know how You are going to cut in and sweep me away from this straining partner. Back and forth I slide across this floor, with You for a brief moment, before I go twirling right back into the assault again. I can’t keep up with You just yet. Your moves are so new to me, and I am so unpracticed in Your ways.

You catch my eyes from across the floor. You are relentless, I think. You keep saying over and over that You are able to keep me from falling. The words might as well be in Italian, for I have no idea what they mean. All these years, I thought I had to keep myself from falling. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t even know I thought I was alone.

Yet, I am clutching to an ounce of belief that somewhere, someday You will have me entirely in Your dance. Somehow, someway a new whisper will course through my veins. Only it won’t be a whisper. It will be a robust song that syncs my whole body, soul, and spirit into Your rhythm.

I don’t know all the words to that song yet. I’m just beginning to hear the beat. But somewhere, someday, somehow, someway it will take me over.

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little mama.

So many words

Nothing left to say

Little mama, how I miss you

Do you know

That I used to catch a glimpse

Of long brown hair

And find myself hoping it would be you

Over and over it happened

A thousand memories

Won’t leave me alone

Neither will the tears

I still love you

That spot in my heart

I so often told you about

It’s still yours, sweet girl

I’ve hardly been more certain

Of destiny and promise

Than on that corner

Than on all those corners

A thousand memories

Some cry

Some smile

Little mama, have you any idea

The immense delight you bring me?

Your joy is my joy

Your pain is my pain

I still believe for you

Beautiful brown eyes

I miss your shimmer

Your laugh, your tease

Sweet girl, how can I give up

When Grace has marked me

With your name

Little mama, never have I

Been so moved by Heaven

Over one

You, my deepest ache

You, my greatest pleasure

I have little doubt

That I will always love you

He never ceases

How could I?

His pulse is mine

It must be

Else I would have buried you

With all my other dreams gone by

But you live on

Always on His mind

Never far from mine

How great the Father’s love

For us

How vast beyond all measure

For you, for me

I cannot escape it

Don’t run, little mama

Anymore

Sweet girl, come home

Mercy will outrun you

I still,

Still

Love you

hands open and yes in my heart.

“Hey, wanna make dinner together tonight and eat on the front porch?” Tay asks me as we head out the door at 7:45 am for our short jaunt to work.  Tay and her husband Joel lives upstairs in our two-family flat.  Tay and I both work at an elementary school a mile down the road, so we ride together each day.  Tay and Joel own one car, and so do Myles and I.  Since Joel works at home and Myles goes to school 30 minutes away, Tay and I just take their car so Myles can drive our truck to school.  Ironically enough, I actually drive their car each morning since its stick-shift and Tay doesn’t know how to drive stick.  (And let’s be honest, experiencing my pathetic stick-shift skills everyday have probably dissuaded her from ever trying to learn!)

Dinner is scrumptious.  I have half a salad leftover from a luncheon at work on hand, some bell peppers, onions, and fresh herbs from my new garden.  Tay has 2 chicken sausages, brussel sprouts, potatoes and garlic.  We chat as we chop, tossing everything but the salad into a big skillet with lots of farm fresh butter from the Eastern Market.  Joel is away on a business trip at the moment, so its just Tay and Myles and I on the porch eating tonight.  Dinner never would have been this good if we hadn’t combined what we both had together… I think as we eat, sip ice tea, and watch our neighbor girls all dressed up for prom and out in their yard taking photos with every single auntie, cousin, and grandpa in the family.

I feel so satisfied as I shower and do dishes tonight.  I’m thinking about how the best meals we have are the shared ones.  Every Tuesday night, Myles and I host a “Family Dinner” for our merry little band of Jesus followers and whatever neighbors and friends we can persuade to join us.  There’s always a theme, and everyone brings an item or two or three, and combined altogether, its almost always a win.  We had some killer fish tacos last week – complete with mango & cilantro and a dozen other fresh toppings.  I mean, who wants to chop a dozen different toppings when you’re eating tacos solo or just with your husband?  I find Tuesday dinners are like a sigh of relief, because no matter how crazy the week gets, you know that a healthy, complete meal is guaranteed to happen.

“Linds, where’s the vacuum?”  I hear Tay call to me as I shower.  “In the back room… don’t forget to empty it if its full.”  We share a vacuum.  They are expensive little machines, and so darn essential.  But its completely unnecessary to have two in one house.  We also share muffin tins.  And a 9×13 pan. And a pencil sharpener.  Showers.  Spices. Eggs.  Internet service.  Milk.  Prayer. Bath salts. Flowers. A guest bedroom.  Printer cords and extension cords. Heels and earrings. Aspirin.  There’s also three unmatched socks sitting on our stairs right now, because a handful of other friends who don’t have a washing machine come over to do their laundry here… and I have no idea which of the 8 different people those little lonely socks belong too.  As I write this, Tay just came down to ask for a lightbulb.  Literally, every single day we use or borrow items from each other.   I find it gets easier to ask all the time – because the response so far has always been generous, and because we both owe each other so much at this point, there is no point to any kind of record or any kind of shame.

As I clean up the clutter from the day tonight, I’m thinking about how comforting community is.  I always have what I need.  I freely give and I freely receive.  My life is much, much richer.  Its not always convenient, but its convenient more often than not.  There are definitely those Saturday morning when I want to sleep in and I can hear every move Joel and Tay make in our creaky old house, and there’s definitely those weekends when I’ve let my laundry pile up and unfortunately everyone else in the community has too and there’s a line of baskets out the laundry room door.  There’s definitely those aggravating moments when all I want is a hot shower, but everyone’s flushing toilets and dish washing keeps yanking all my hot water.  But for every moment of frustrating are at least two moments of safety, comfort, and provision.

Tonight I think to myself, God is so smart.  He is so wise, and so, so smart.  His ideas about sharing freely and living as family simply make the most sense.  Community living is smart for so many reasons – I am more free financially, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  I am a better steward of the earth and resources.  I am more safe, which in my neighborhood is a big deal.  People know my business all the time, and it is GOOD for me.  I can’t get away with sin.  I can’t get away with selfishness.  I think when we live in isolation its very possible to be the most selfish person on the planet and never even know it simply because there is no one to expose it!

I wanted to write this out tonight, because I want a reminder.  In case I ever get the notion to strike it out alone, or get tempted to posses two cars when I only need one, or begin to think that I don’t want to share whats in my fridge because there might not be enough for me, I want to read words like these and remember what it is I truly want:

I want richness.  I want fullness.  I want a colorful story.  I want the grace and goodness and generosity of God to fill all my days and all my rooms.  I want to live with my hands open and a yes in my heart.  When my hands are open, I can’t hold on to stuff… but I am also ready to receive anything good that’s given to me.  And when there’s a yes in my heart, I can’t always be sure where I will end up, but I can always be sure that I haven’t missed out on anything glorious.

Our home here in a new city sure looks different than our full house in Kansas City did.  I don’t have little brown faces and giggles and oatmeal-covered hands waking me up in the morning, or the horrid smell of weed wafting through the vents, or teenagers sleeping on my couch every night.

Yet, that is.

Sometimes houses take a while to fill.  Sometimes longer than you hope.  Our empty bedrooms make me sad.  And everyday I ask God, “Who next God?  Who are you bringing us to love and to be loved by?  Who are You going to fill our home with?  Yes to whoever You’ve got in mind.”  And I remind myself that all my best, craziest stories and favorite people from the last few years came from prayers like this.

Sometimes I hold my hands open when I ask God this, as my way of telling both Him and myself that whatever I have I will give and whatever He has I want.  And I do try to always tell Him “YES.”  Even if all I say is that one word, He knows exactly what I mean.  I know Him well enough to know that He always takes us up on every single yes.  Every single one.

kept.

It was a long summer.

A long, long, long summer.

It was a long year. So very full. The most pain and the most joy.  All at once.  The most heartache.  Ones I loved most dearly running away.  And most dear ones I thought were gone coming back again.  A year of great hope and promise. And deep disappointment.

I feel like I just swam for miles.  And I’m a runner, not a swimmer.  I swam and I swam, I had to keep swimming to stay alive, but I was just so, so tired. My body was tired, my spirit was tired.  And I thought I would drown so many times.  But the scene was so magnificent, and so many moments of utter exhilaration came in the midst of it all.

I feel like I am crawling out of the water, onto a rugged beach, dripping wet, gasping for air, and looking back to see what I have just survived.

I made it.  Barely, it feels.  But I made it.  You could not believe how great the expanse of that water was, even if I could show you.  No one could ever know how very far that distance was and how very deep that water was, save my soul and God alone.  You could not imagine how intensely loved I felt in the middle of that sea.  And you could not begin to guess how many of my tears are now mixed in there.

As I sink into the comfort of the sand and take in the scene now behind me, one thought consumes my mind.

There is only one way I could have made it. 

Only One is able to keep me without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present me unblemished, blameless, and faultless with triumphant joy and exaltation, with unspeakable ecstatic delight.* 

I glance about, and I absolutely know that I am in the right place and that it is the right time to be here.  I hear a whisper echo about me, as the waves from the sea gently collapse around my feet.

“I have brought you to a good place.”

I am taking a minute to take in the peace.  To catch my breath.  To wonder in amazement at the Strength of the One who kept me… who still keeps me.  I cannot believe He has done it again.  And yet He did!

This rugged island He’s brought me to has a fascinating wild beauty.  I put my hand on my chest and feel my pulse.  My heart is still beating, and as my breathing begins to slow, and as I swallow another gulp of peace, I find a twinge of eagerness to begin exploring.  I’m so surprised and so relieved.  There were moments swimming in that sea, moments I thought I might drown and never feel an ounce of desire again.  I confess there were moments I wanted to drown.  Moments I didn’t even care about even wanting to explore ever again.

Sigh.

But I made it.  I made it, and here I am.  And with every deep breath I take, I feel my energy revive.  I am alive. And I want to live. And I will live.

Because He keeps me. I glance over my shoulder at the rugged land behind me.  Am I actually excited to be here?  I think I might be… It’s just so, so absolutely right.

I know full well there is likely another sea on the other side of this island.  It may be near or it may be far.  Who knows how big this island is.

But one thing is sure.

I am okay.  And I will always be okay.

He keeps me.  And He doesn’t stumble. He doesn’t slip.  He doesn’t fall.

“To the one only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, splendor, majesty, might, and dominion, and power and authority, before all time and now and forever unto all the ages of eternity. Amen. So be it.”**

*Jude 24, Amplified Version; **Jude 25, Amplified Version

perfection got my back

I think about rightly relating often.  Regularly.  Probably every day.  Usually at least a few times a day.

And when I think about right relating… When I think about “rightness” in general, it has this incredible power to draw me in.  At first look, right relating makes sense.  Its perfectly logical.  Our brains and bodies were designed to rightly relate, and every ounce of wrong relating causes a protest.  The earth protests, and all of creations groans and moans and aches to be in right order.  Every ounce of discomfort on the planet is a result of wrong relating.  When I consider briefly the implications of how many parts of my personal life and even greater, how many parts of society would become beautiful and harmonious with right relating, I am immediately intrigued.  If every person on the planet rightly related to the earth by caring for it, our food would be perfectly nutritious and our bodies would be well.  If we were kind to our bodies by feeding them only good things all the time, by sleeping and exercising, we would have the perfect wellness and energy we needed to bless the world.  If every single relationship in every single city and town was in right motion, we would have no stress, no anxiety, no crime, no abuse.  If all of us perfectly related to God with humility and continual submission, we would experience inexplicable joy and unending peace.

Right relating makes perfect sense.

I realized this morning that when I set my aim at right relating, its appeal shimmers brightly for a second.  Then slowly but always very surely my hunger for rightness slips away until there is not much in me left to desire it.  After I decide that right relating makes perfect sense and that I should want it with all my being, it quickly seems to turn cold and too far out of my reach, too far from possibility.

After all, the impossible is rarely inviting.  It taunts more than it beckons.

And if I stop there, the rest of my day has a dismal theme.  The tension of the beautiful unobtainable lingers in the corners of my mind, and the unbearable weight of disappointment overrides every other thought and sentiment.  I want to quit life before it gets going any further.

But…

…but if I consider the Man Jesus, everything changes.

Remember, self!  Remember that Man Jesus!

Jesus Christ is a real, live Man who put His bare feet on dirt and grass like I do.  He ate figs and drank wine.  He slept. He walked.  He fixed things and built things.  He was a perfect Son, a perfect Friend, a perfect Teacher.  He perfectly rightly related all the time.  To God, to His mom, to His followers, to the earth.  Jesus takes the impossibility of rightly relating as a human being, wads it up and chucks it into outer space.  He has single-handedly done what no one else could ever do.  He stepped right over the unobtainable perfection, took off running, and hasn’t stopped since.

Jesus, that God Man… now, He is stunning.  He is always doing exactly the right thing all the time.  His motivation is always untainted.  He always knows who He is.  He always knows the voice of God.  He is the very description of Love.  He is always choosing us over Himself.  He is quite simply, the Best.

When I remember Jesus, I can’t help but adore the guy.  He is irresistibly incredible.  When I really force myself to consider Him and all His ways, I am drawn in and this time I stay stuck there. This time right relating is warm, it calls to me, it dances with promise and sings with hope.  This time right relating is a so close.  It has a face, it has a name.  It is a reality.

When I remember Jesus, I remember that what was once out of my reach is now there for the taking every single morning I crawl out of bed.  Rightly relating to my God is actually possible, and so is rightly relating to this body I wake up in, and the husband I wake up next to.  It is possible to rightly relate to my housemates eating breakfast in the kitchen, to the food in my kitchen, to my neighbors mowing their grass and to the cashier at Home Depot.

Today I am so thankful that Jesus came to us as a human.  I am glad that He wrapped Right Relating in flesh and bones and made an unobtainable theory something I can touch and know.  I am so thankful that Jesus came and DID it.  He lived a perfectly right relating life.  I am so thankful Jesus said to me and to you, “Here is My perfect right relating.  Its all yours now!  Try it out… I’ve got you covered.”

He makes me want to live.  And I mean, really LIVE.  If Perfection Himself has my back, I think I can take on life.

…Maybe even take a job in a high security juvenile prison in the worst part of Detroit… maybe even get a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice… maybe even dreaming about establishing Right Relating and True Justice to the prison systems of America… maybe all kinds of things are possible now…

I mean, the guy who kicked the death of all humanity in the face handed me His very own right relating.  This makes me want to LIVE.

a day of liberation

I wrote this the day after Christmas, just two weeks after Myles Hamby asked me to marry him.  Here I am now, two weeks away from actually marrying him…

Laying here in bed, praying a bit and pondering how

marriage

is

liberating.

The world says marriage means you are

stuck

tied down.

The world proclaims that “love” without covenant is the free life.  It’s a scam.  Sure you are free – free to

have your heart broken over and over

become numb and hard

take care of yourself

be selfish forever, and thereby self-destruct

muster up courage every day to believe in yourself

acquire STDs

worry about unwanted pregnancies.

When I think about marrying Myles, I think that marriage sounds like

freedom.

My wedding day will be

a day of liberation.

This past year I have been more seriously committed to one person than I ever have in my whole life.  It has been

the most

freeing year

ever.

I have been liberated to fully enjoy the things I love most

like running, because I have someone to run with

like cooking, because I have someone to enjoy what I create

like writing, because I have someone who cares about every word I write

I have run more often, and run harder because of Myles.

I have cooked with more excellence, and enjoyed it more because of Myles.

I have written more creatively, and with freedom because of Myles.

I have been liberated to most fully be myself

to rescue girls in trouble, because I have someone to protect me

to mother orphans, because I have someone to be a father to them

to love lost people, because I someone to care with me

to pray for strangers, because I am with someone with more faith than I have

to be beautiful, because I have some to cherish and guard my beauty

to dream big, because there is someone who believes in me more than I do

to be silly, because there is someone to laugh

to weep and weep hard, because there is someone to hold me.

Crying hard by myself is too painful.  But when there is someone to hold me, I can let my pain run outside of me.

My second week of being friends with Myles, I was describing him and our friendship to a woman I love and trust.  She said,

“If one can slay a thousand, two can slay ten thousand.”

I am liberated to swing my sword

and do more than just survive.

I am liberated to conquer.

To win.

When I marry Myles I will be liberated even more

to love with every ounce of passion, with no holding back for fear this might not last

to experience sexual pleasure with someone who will still be there in the morning

who will still be there in 50 years

to be a mother, full of confidence, because my children will have a good father.

I am not naive.  I know that choosing covenant is dying to myself for a lifetime.  I know that when I choose marriage, I hand over the right to my own body, the right to my own time, the right to my own priorities.

And I know that when I choose the Perfect Love of God to be my own, I die a death.  But I die to rise again to new life.  I die to resurrect.

Marriage is an echo.  It’s a shadow of things to come.  A symbol of a Perfectly Loving God taking unto Himself a people in faithfulness forever.

Marriage is resurrection.  It is death of one way of living, and abundant life to a new way.

When I covenanted my life to God’s,

or rather when I responded to His covenant to me,

I surrendered my right to my own life.

And I was liberated

to enjoy my runs, because of God’s joyful presence ran with me

to enjoy cooking creatively, because the Originator of All Food became my Friend

to write with passion, because of Love in my bones

to love hard, because I tasted Love myself

to weep, because I have a Comforter

to laugh, with true joy

to rescue, because I have been rescued

to live a life bigger than myself, because I have Eternity in my chest

to mother, because I have a Good Father and so my children can too

to experience intimacy with Someone I can trust to be Faithful Forever

to win, because all things have been conquered by Him.

I feel free because

I am SAFE

and I am TAKEN CARE OF.

I am free because

I do not have to protect myself

and survive on my own.

Love is

“protecting and providing for that which has been given to you as a privilege.”

I am treated as a privilege by Myles

and by my Lord.

I am protected.

I am cared for.

I AM FREE.

And I step forward into more and more freedom.  With my God and with my husband-to-be.

The more I surrender myself, the more freedom I am able to experience.  The more of my rights I hand over, the more goodness I have access to.

It is an upside down kingdom.

It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

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